It looks like not even Dr. Frankenstein could raise the Dark Universe from its grave, as the strange shared universe that Universal tried to kick off with Tom Cruise's The Mummy has finally had its fate addressed by the higher-ups at the studio. While there was certainly talk of a new direction from filmmakers being courted into the Universal monster factory (like Paul Feig, for example) the most reliable information about corporate strategy, even when it comes to wolfmen and mummies, comes from the top. Now Donna Langley, Universal chairwoman, has handed down the definitive take on the experiment and explained what the future of the monster-verse will be at the studio.
Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's studio head roundtable, Langley conceded that the attempt at a shared universe didn't exactly go according to plan. "We had an attempt at interlocking our monsters and it was a failed attempt," she said. "What we released is that these characters are indelible for a reason, but there's no urgency behind them and certainly the world was not asking for a shared universe of classic monsters. But we have gone back and created a approach that's filmmaker-first, any budget range."
This new approach, which the chairwoman describes not only as being under a new creative direction but "a new economic model" as well, starts off with writer/director Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man. Flipping the traditional script about its monster and starring Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man takes the Universal monsters in a bold new direction that truly does seem to follow the Joker model rather than the MCU model: specific takes on characters from confident creatives. Now there's plenty of room for takes on Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
It doesn't hurt that Langley confirmed future monster movies wouldn't really connect and would truly be "standalone" films. Not every studio can be Marvel, it seems. But that means the Dark Universe is truly dead, its scrapped business model transformed into something perhaps more palatable to fans anyways: new monster movies that can scare and delight without the greater need to create an overarching world.
The Invisible Man kicks off a new era for the Universal monsters when it hits theaters on Feb. 28.